New Zealand fears over Filipino nurse training

The Nursing Council is concerned that the rapid increase in nursing programmes in the Philippines could be at the expense of the quality of nursing, and says it will raise the issue with Filipino authorities.

Chief executive Carolyn Reed says representatives of the council will travel to the Philippines to meet the nursing regulatory authority and educational providers because it needs to be satisfied that educational courses preparing nurses coming to New Zealand are meeting acceptable standards.

"We do have concerns about the effect that such rapid growth has on programme quality," Ms Reed said.

"There has been an escalation of programmes offering nursing education in the Philippines.

"Some figures suggest that in 2004 there were 30,000 nurses in education programmes and this has risen to 450,000 last year."

Many in the Philippines take a nursing degree as a second tertiary qualification because they think that with the global shortage of nurses, it could be their ticket to migration.

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The council, which governs nursing registration here, has already made it tougher for overseas-trained nurses to register here by raising the English language test standards and generally not recognising courses of less than four years duration, which comes as a blow to most Filipino-trained nurses.

If they were taking nursing as a second course, the course duration was reduced because they were exempt from certain subjects which often meant completing their programmes in two to three years, instead of four.

"The proliferation of programmes and the proliferation of providers in the Philippines have meant that we have had considerable difficulty assessing the adequacy of the theory and practice content of the programmes of the nurses applying [to work in New Zealand], in order to establish that they have met educational equivalence," Ms Reed said.

But Agnes Granada, of the Migrant Action Trust, accused the Nursing Council of being discriminatory by targeting Filipino nurses.

"There are good nurses and there are bad nurses that come from every country, and it is unfair that they are criticising nursing programmes in the Philippines without any valid reason," Ms Granada said.

"In fact, I think it's in our nature to be caring, and I think that alone would make Filipino nurses much better than many who come from elsewhere."

Ms Granada said the Nursing Council's trip to the Philippines would be "a waste of time". It was also "a waste of talent" for the council to make it tough for nurses to register at a time when hospitals here were facing an acute shortage of nursing staff.

Geoff Annals, chief executive of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation, says he supports the council's trip to assess the new programmes in the Philippines, but is

"anxious that it isn't seen as a problem with [Filipino] nurses, because there are many excellent nurses that are working in New Zealand who are from the Philippines".

"We don't want to see similar nurses being obstructed from coming."

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